Buffalo Soldiers
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Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scott Glenn, Anna Paquin, Ed Harris, Elizabeth McGovern


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SUNDANCE REVIEW (which means I'm doing a lot of reviews in a hurry, so they might be shorter and less fantastical):

It's good to see a film that's not lionizing the military at all these days, even if it was made before the whole 9/11/2001 bullshit. Joaquin Phoenix vs. Scott Glenn in a battle of wills between the Sgt. Bilko black market army hustler and the psychotic war-lovin' head ballbuster in charge - quite the black comedy, and frighteningly based on truths.

Much like the Onion article "Nation's Bottom 10 Percent Ready To Fight Saddam," this is the first film I've seen actually mention how the military is often made up of ex-cons and the bargain-basement directionless no-college-havin' guess-I'll-join-the-army dudes fresh out of high school. This is made evident by the hucksterism and rampant drug use on the West German army base where this story takes place. In case you missed the titles that said this goes down just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, they handily have a club scene where they play "Fight The Power" by Public Enemy, in which Chuck D informatively shouts "1989, The Numbah... Another Summah... Get down with the funky drumma!" Thanks Chuck!

Elwood (Phoenix) is the shittin'est dick on the base. He's running all sorts of back-alley shenanigans and cookin' up acres of smack to sell the troops, all the while playing forthright lackey to the general (Harris), who's a dim enough bulb to not catch any of it. When the new "top" (Glenn) shows up though and is obviously unable to be bought off, the battle of wills commences, which includes Elwood nailing Top's daughter (Paquin).

I suppose it's legally allowed now, but I still feel a bit uneasy about being happy to have Anna Paquin vamp around. She's young, but she's cute, and she's got enough awkward reality about her to make her seem better than the cookie-cutter perfect chicks floating around the movies.

It's an enjoyable film, if not really knockdown hilarious or colossally incisive. The director, though, made the film a bit heavier by telling us that shit like this does indeed go down every day, and a lot of actual soldiers found it refreshing to have their whole lives shown rather than just the glorified heroic parts. It does make the interesting point that, in times of peace, the warlike man will find ways to make war in his own world, which makes some sense.

And although the Bob Marley song is nowhere to be found in the film, I left the theater with it in my head anyway.

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